Fetichism in West Africa | Annotated Tale

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Two Brothers, The

RA-MBORAKINDA has his great town, and his wives, and his children, and the glory of his kingdom. All his women had no children, except the loved head-wife, Ngwe-nkonde (Mother of Queens), and the unloved Ngwe-vazya (Mother of Skin-Disease). Each of these two had children, sons, at the same time. The father gave them their names. Ngwe-nkonde's was Nkombe, and Ngwe-vazya's was Ogula. Again these two women became mothers. This time both of them had daughters. Ngwe-nkonde's was named Ngwanga, and Ngwe-vazya's was Ilâmbe. A third time these two bore children, sons, on the same day. These two sons grew up without names till they began to talk, for the father had delayed to give them names. But one day he called them to announce to them their names. What he had selected they refused, saying that they had already named themselves. Ngwe-nkonde's child named himself Osongo, and Ngwe-vazya's Oběngi. And the father agreed.

               These two children grew and loved each other very much. No one would have thought that they belonged to different mothers, so great was the love they had for each other. They were always seen together, and always ate at the same place. When one happened to be out at mealtime, the other would not eat, and would begin to cry till the absent one returned. Both were handsome in form and feature.

               When Ngwe-vazya's people heard about her nice-looking little boy, they sent word to her, "We have heard about your children, but we have not seen you for a long time. Come and visit us, and bring your youngest son, for we have heard of him and want to see him."

               So she went and asked permission of Ra-Mborakinda, saying that she wanted to go and see her people. He was willing. Then she made herself ready to start. As soon as Osongo knew that his brother Oběngi was going away, he began to cry at the thought of separation. He said, "I am not going to stay alone. I have to go too, for I am not willing to be separated from my brother." And Oběngi said the same: "If Osongo does not go with us, then I will not go at all." Then Ngwe-vazya thought to herself, "No, it will not do for me to take Osongo along with me, for his mother and I are not friendly." And she told Osongo that he must stay. But both the boys persisted, "No, we both must go." So Ngwe-vazya said, "Well, let it be so. I will take care of Osongo as if he were my own son." And Ra-Mborakinda and Ngwe-nkonde were willing that Osongo should go.

               So they started and went; and when they reached the town of Ngwe-vazya's family the people were very glad to receive them. She was very attentive to both the boys, watching them wherever they went, for they were the beloved sons of Ra-Mborakinda. She was there at her people's town about two months. Then she told them that it was time to return home with the two boys. Her people assented, and began to load her and the boys with parting presents.

               They went back to Ra-Mborakinda's town, and there also their people were glad to see them return, for the children had grown, and looked well. The people, and even Ra-Mborakinda, praised Ngwe-vazya for having so well cared for the children, especially the one who was not her own.

               This made Ngwe-nkonde more jealous, because of the praise that Ra-Mborakinda gave, and because of the boys' fine report of their visit and the abundance of gifts with which Ngwe-vazya had returned. So Ngwe-nkonde made up her mind that some day she would do the same, that she might receive similar praise. She waited some time before she attempted to carry out her plan. By the time that she got ready to ask leave to go the boys had grown to be lads. One day she thought proper to ask Ra-Mborakinda permission to go visiting with her son. Ra-Mborakinda was willing, and she commenced her preparations.

               And again confusion came because of the two lads refusing to be separated. Osongo refused to go alone. But afterward he, knowing of his mother's jealous disposition, changed his mind, and said to Oběngi, "No, I think you better stay." But Oběngi refused, saying, "No, I have to go too." Osongo then told him the true reason for his objecting. "I said this because I know that my mother is not like yours. So please stay; I will be gone only two days, and will then come and meet you." But Oběngi insisted, "If you go, I go." And Ngwe-nkonde said, "Well, let it be so; I will take care of you both."

               So they went. When they reached the town of Ngwe-nkonde's family, the people were glad to see them. She also was apparently kind and attentive to the lads for the first two days. On the third day she began to think the care was troublesome. "These lads are big enough to take care of themselves like men."

               She did indeed feel kindly toward Oběngi, liking his looks, and she said to herself, "I think I will try to win his affections from his mother to myself." She tried to do so, but the lad was not influenced by her. When she noticed that he did not seem to care for her attentions, she was displeased, began to hate him, and made up her mind to kill him.

               All the days that the lads were there at the town they went out on excursions to the forest, hunting animals. As soon as they came back they would sit down together to chat and to eat sugar-cane [with African children a substitute for candy].

               Ngwe-nkonde knew of this habit. After she had decided to kill Oběngi, on the next day she had the sugar-cane ready for them. She rubbed poison on one of the stalks, and arranged that that very piece should be the first one that Oběngi would take. He had taken only two bites, and was chewing, when he exclaimed, "Brother, I begin to feel giddy, and my eyes see double! Please give me some water quickly!" Water was brought to him. He took a little of it. Others, spectators, became excited, and began to dash water over his face. But soon he fell down dead.

               Then Ngwe-Nkonde exclaimed to herself, "So I've been here only five days, and now the lad is dead. I don't care! Let him die!"

               By this time Osongo had become greatly excited, crying out, and repeating over and over, "My brother! Oh, my brother! Oh, my same age!" His mother said to him, "To-morrow I will have him buried, and we will start back to our town." Osongo replied to her, "That shall not be. He shall not be buried here. We both came together, and though he is dead, we both will go back together." The next morning Osongo said to his mother, "I know that you are at the bottom of this trouble. You know something about it. You brought him. And now he is dead. I charge you with killing him." She only replied, "I know nothing of that. We will wait, and we shall know."

               They began to get ready for the return journey, and some of the people said, "Let a coffin be made, and the body be placed there." But Osongo said, "No, I don't want that; I have a hammock, and he shall be carried in it." So they prepared the hammock, and placed in it the dead body.

               As to Ngwe-Nkonde, Osongo had her arrested, and held as a prisoner, with her hands tied behind her, and he took a long whip with which to drive her. And they started on their journey.

               On the way Osongo was wailing a mourning-song, and cursing his mother, and weeping, saying, "Oh, we both came together, and he is dead! Oh, my brother! Oh, my same age! Oběngi gone! Osongo left! Oh, the children of one father! Osongo, who belongs to Ngwe-Nkonde, left, and Oběngi, who belongs to Ngwe-Vazya, gone!" And thus they went, he repeating these impromptu words of his song, and weeping as he went. As they were going thus, while they were still only half-way on their route, a man, Esěrěngila (tale-bearer), one of his father's servants, was out in the forest hunting. He heard the song. Listening, he said to himself, "Those words! What do they mean?" Listening still, he thought he recognized Osongo's voice, and understood that one was living and the other dead.

               So he ran ahead to carry the news to the town before the corpse should arrive there. When he reached the town, he first told his wife about it. She advised him, "If that is so, don't go and tell this bad news to the king; a servant like you should not be the bearer of ill news." But he still said, "No, but I'm going to tell the father." His wife insisted, "Do not do it! With those two beloved children, if the news be not true, the parents will make trouble for you!" But Esěrěngila started to tell, and by the time he had finished his story the company with the corpse were near enough for the people of the town to hear all the words of Osongo's song of mourning.

               Oběngi's father and mother were so excited with grief that their people had to hold them fast as if they were prisoners, to prevent them injuring themselves. The funeral company all went up to the king's house, and laid down the body of his son; and Osongo's mother, still tied, was led into the house.

               The townspeople were all excited, shouting and weeping. Some began to give directions about the making of a fine coffin. But Osongo said, "No, I don't want him to be put into a coffin yet, because when my brother was alive we had many confidences and secrets, and now that he is dead, I have somewhat of a work to do before he is buried. Let the corpse wait awhile." So he asked them all to leave the corpse alone while he went out of the town for a short time.

               Then he went away to the village of Ra-Marânge, and said to him, "I'm in great trouble, and indeed I need your help." The prophet replied, "Child, I am too old; I am not making medicine now. Go to Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya, and repeat your story to him; he will help you."

               Ra-Marânge showed him the way to Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya's place. He went, and had not gone far when he found it. Going to the magician, Osongo said, "I'm in trouble, and have come to you." As soon as he had said this, Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya made his magic fire, and stepped into it. Osongo was frightened, thinking, "I've come to this man, and he is about to kill himself for me"; and he ran away. But he had not gone far, when he heard the magician's nkendo (a witchcraft bell) ringing, and his voice calling to him, "If you have come for medicine, come back; but if for anything else, then run away." So Osongo returned quickly, and found that the old magician had emerged from his fire and was waiting for him. Osongo told his story of his brother's death, and said he wanted direction what to do. Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya gave him medicine for a certain purpose, and told him what to do and how to do it.

               When Osongo came back with the medicine, he entered his father's house, into the room where his brother's corpse was lying, and ordered every one to leave him alone for a while. They all left the room. He closed the door, and following the directions given him by Ogula-y'-impazya-vazya, he brought Oběngi to life again.

               Now came a question what was to be done with Ngwe-nkonde, the attempted murderess. It was demanded that her throat should be cut, and that her body, weighted with stones, should be flung into the river. "For," said Osongo, "I will not own such a mother; she is very bad. Oběngi's mother shall be my mother." It was decided so. And Ra-Mborakinda said to Ngwe-vazya, "You step up to the queen's seat with your two sons" (meaning Osongo and Oběngi).

               And Ngwe-vazya became head-wife, and was very kind and attentive to both sons.

               And the matter ended.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Two Brothers, The
Tale Author/Editor: Nassau, Robert Hamill
Book Title: Fetichism in West Africa
Book Author/Editor: Nassau, Robert Hamill
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1904
Country of Origin: West Africa
Classification: unclassified

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